Everything is exactly what it is.
No more. No less.

On Human Value.

– Written 25th July 2010


What makes a human life valuable? Well. God does.

Not only is it God who does, but it is only God who can make human life valuable.

Let’s slow down.

Let me tell you, there is no such thing as intrinsic value. That is to say that everything that has value only has it because there is something external to it that benefits from it in some way. Value is placed upon something. It is located in the mind of the valuer, not within the thing itself.

Continue reading

An exercise in reduction.

– Written 13th June 2010

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I like thinking about what you can reduce things to.

Take your computer for example. At glance we can reduce a computer to its components of either hardware or software. Where the hardware is stuff like the screen, the speakers, the hard drive, the circuit board – all the “physical” things, the things you can hold. Then there’s the software, which is stuff like Windows, iTunes, internet browsers, and all the programs, which you can’t touch. They seem to be composed of information, as if they have some other mode of existence compared to the solid hardware components. But really they’re both reducible to material substance. All the information in a computer – the images, the text, the sound – exists according to the physical state of the computer; in the various switches turning on and off and whatnot, or the code imprinted on the CD being read by the laser. Everything that we see on a computer can be explained by some physical component located in that computer.

But further than that, all these components can be reduced to things smaller and smaller; everything in a computer can be reduced to the substances (plastic, silicon, metal) they are made out of. And then, all those substances can be reduced to their molecular structure, and all those molecules reduced to the different atoms that compose them. And all these atoms are only differentiated by the number of protons, neutrons and electrons that form them. That all means that a computer, with all its capabilities, can be explained by as little as its exact arrangement protons, neutrons and electrons.

It is clear that almost everything in the world we see is reducible to physical matter. In fact the only thing that might not be is the mind. Philosophers and scientists alike are asking the question these days; is human consciousness reducible to the physical states in the brain? Continue reading

The Creation of Evil.

– Written 7th Febuary 2010

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I’ve heard a lot of questions people ask to try to point out flaws in the idea of God. And we get pretty used to a lot of them, even bored of them (I know I do). But there’s one question I occasionally hear which is just an odd question, really. Here it is:

Let’s assume God exists.

He created everything, right?

And evil exists, therefore God created evil.

So doesn’t that mean God is evil?

Now I know that technically and grammatically, questions can’t be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but seriously, the question is wrong! On many, many levels it is wrong and I honestly find it odd that it still gets asked.

The first thing is pretty simple. The question half-defeats itself with its bias. It says God created evil, but forgets that God must have created good as well. So it would be better to say, after all the question’s premises, that God is half evil, half good. Or he is not completely good. That just makes a lot more sense than, “he’s created a little bit of evil therefore he is completely evil”.

But if we let that slide, we get to the second level of wrongness – and the textbook answer to this question. That answer in a nutshell is that in the way that darkness is the absence of light, and cold is the absence of heat, evil is simply the absence of good. So God created good, and evil is in all the places where good isn’t. Therefore God didn’t actually create evil. I like the elegance and simplicity of this answer. And I think the answer is mostly right, but when you really think about it, even this answer is being pretty generous to the questioner.

Because there’s a really fundamental problem about this question which totally neutralises it, but that for some reason, I have never heard raised before. And for that reason, I’m gonna raise it.

I would want to ask the questioner how they define the concept ‘evil’. What they think evil is. What is it really? The best answer they, or anyone, will be able to come up with is “absence of or opposition to good”, which I would agree with. But then you must ask – is that really something that one could create? I mean, think of all the things God created: atoms, stars, planets, oceans, rocks, trees, animals, people. And then you’re trying to say God created “the opposition to good”. You soon realise that this whole thing doesn’t make any sense, and the atheist’s entire question has fallen apart.

It’s because we’re treating the word wrongly. We’re treating ‘evil’ as an object, which it clearly is not. Evil doesn’t fit into the same class as stars or trees. So in defining ‘evil’, we really need to step back and look at what type of thing evil is: not an object, but a characteristic. Evil is a characteristic, not a thing in itself. Things in themselves can have the characteristics of good or evil. So the noun, the concept of ‘evil’ is really subsequent to, and derived from, various things having been described by the adjective ‘evil’.

It’s similar to ‘yellow’. God didn’t so much create ‘yellow’ as he created things that are yellow. And according to the way the laws of logic and reason work, ‘yellow’ naturally formed itself into a concept as well. But the concept is secondary. The concept of yellow doesn’t really exist. It’s not actually independently there.

So in the same way, there is no actual creation called ‘evil’, but there are creations, things, that are evil, or that perform actions that are described as evil.

And THAT is why the answer to the question really lies in free will. God didn’t create evil. In fact, to take the last few paragraphs to their logical conclusion, God didn’t create good either. He didn’t. What God did was he created the Heavens, the Universe, and us. And to us he gave purpose and preference. God gave us the ability to act in any way we choose. But he told us how he would prefer us to live, and the purposes he designed us with. It is these preferences that are definitionally good – they are the desires of God. And all the different ways we can choose to act that oppose his preferences are definitionally evil.

That is the true origin of good and evil.

What is love?

– Written 16th November 2009

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Let’s be realistic.

Love is only a feeling. What else could it be?
Why should that sound pessimistic? Feelings are underrated.
Feelings can cause action.

So called “acts of love” are not “love” itself, but are simply evidence of love.

Evidence of a feeling strong enough to cause action.

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Everything is exactly what it is. No more. No less.